JOHNSONBURG — Any high school sports program that is successful has people who are “team players” who know and understand their roles and do what is asked of them to aide in that success.
Johnsonburg senior Cole Kilhoffer is one of those athletes, particularly in football where he was a two-time lettermen playing for Ridgway as part of the schools’ co-op for the sport.
Kilhoffer also was a two-time lettermen as a thrower for his home school’s track and field team but missed out on his senior year in the sport because of COVID-19.
“I love both of the sports that I am a part of for different reasons,” said Kilhoffer. “There is nothing like the bond you have with your teammates on the football field, and there is also nothing like stepping into the discus circle and having all of the pressure on yourself.
“I (also) like the relationships I have formed. All of my coaches are more than my ‘coaches.’ They have taught me more about life, myself and hard work than anything else in my life. My teammates are my best friends and to know that they have my back in and outside of sports is the best feeling in the world.”
Kilhoffer began playing football when he was nine years old and eventually reached the varsity level when he was a a sophomore. He played in seven games that year, recording five tackles. His playing time increased in his final two seasons, as he earned varsity letters both years.
Ridgway won District 9 titles all three years (1 in Class A, 2 in Class 2A) he was at the varsity level and went 11-2 in each of his final two seasons in Class 2A.
Kilhoffer’s “team first” mentality came through as he got older as he was one of a select few Elkers asked to “carry” two different uniform numbers (62 & 81). Both were needed depending on where he was asked to play in a certain game (offensive lineman can’t wear numbers of skill position players).
He largely played defense as a junior and recorded 19 tackles, including two sacks, and recovered a fumble while playing in all 13 games.
As a senior, he switched over to offense and helped solidify an offensive line that paved the way for the Elkers to run for 2,720 yards and pass for another 2,382 — all while winning its second straight D-9 Class 2A titles and fourth crown overall for the program. Kilhoffer recorded three tackles his senior year, all in a win against Punxsutawney.
Kilhoffer said his favorite game in high school was the D-9 title game against Clarion his senior year. Ridgway, which beat Clarion 42-0 in the regular season, trailed the Bobcats 28-14 at the half in the championship game. However, the Elkers stormed back in the second half to win going away, 56-35.
“Down by two scores at halftime, I think a lot of people counted us out then,” said Kilhoffer. “But, I trusted my teammates and knew what they could do. It is my favorite moment because it showed everyone what we could do.”
Unfortunately for the Ram, he missed out on his senior year of throwing the discus in track and finals months of school in the classroom when all spring sports were cancelled and schools closed because of the coronavirus.
“I am heartbroken that I will never be able to step into the discus circle again, and more heartbroken that I won’t be able to spend another day with my teachers and peers,” said Kilhoffer. “Although I am disappointed, it is the right thing to do. Keeping everyone safe should be the first priority no matter what.”
Outside of sports and school, Kilhoffer writes and produces short films with his friends.
“It is something I am very passionate about,” he said.
He said balancing sports with school and his other activies can he difficult.
“Sometimes it is very challenging, but that helps you grow,” he said. “The last thing you want to do after a cold, wet, three-hour football practice is trigonometry, but you have to do it, and it prepares you for the busy times in life.”
Kilhoffer is the son of Matt and Rachel Kilhoffer.
He said family has played a big role in his life.
“My dad, my grandfather, my uncle ... the men in my family have taught me how to become one, and I will forever look up to them and be grateful for that,” said Kilhoffer.
After graduation, Kilhoffer plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania and major in digitial media production and journalism.